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Epidurals in Labor

8 February 2012

Today I read this article at The Feminist Breeder about epidural use in labor, and it was excellent. The author devoted the short piece to the scientific aspect of some risks associated with the routine use of this popular labor drug. Because she was being scientific and evidence-based, she stopped short of giving any personal opinion, anecdote, or bias toward why an individual woman might do well to avoid the epidural, if possible.

Well, since this is my personal blog, and if you pinky-swear to read the article, I will go one step further and give you my personal opinion as to why I chose (successfully) to avoid the epidural. Twice.

But first, shout-out to the Haters! They’re right. You don’t get a trophy. Or a medal. (although in my case it did involve a certain amount of jewelry, but that’s another story) Nonetheless, there are tangible benefits to doing without this drug, if possible.

Here’s the bottom line: epidural use robs you of your mobility. Mobility and gravity are your best friends during labor.

When I gave birth to my second baby, I was on my knees. In fact, I was in that position for the entire 2nd stage. No one told me to get in that position except my body and my baby. I was able to listen because I could still feel what my body was doing. I could not have been on my knees if I was limp from the waist down. Being in this position utilized gravity to pull my baby down. Mimicking a squatting position on my knees also opened up my pelvis 30% more than if I had been on my back, as one is with an epi.

During the first part of both my labors, I also enjoyed the freedom of movement that going drug-free afforded me. I took walks, ate, drank, sat cross-legged on the floor, did yoga, used a birth ball, leaned upright against a tall dresser, and best of all MOVED AROUND in between all my different coping strategies.

Did any of these things take the pain of birthing away? Of course not! If anything, they made it “worse,” and by worse I mean better. Better because all these things I did helped my body dilate, move the baby into position, and push that baby out. To which end I had a completely intervention-free vaginal birth. The Perfect Birth.

Sometimes people will tell horror stories about birthing drug-free. As a willful natural birther, I would say that if you prepare mentally, physically, and spiritually for a natural birth, it is not torturous. It is euphoric. But don’t think that you can just white-knuckle the pain. You must surrender. You will do better if you prepare with a class specifically designed for it, like HypnoBabies or Bradley.

I would also add that sometimes one must be flexible to very real complications in childbirth. If a woman has been in labor for 24, 30 hours and her body is totally fatigued, an epi may do her some good, giving her the rest she needs to push her baby out. Or if she is induced, the labor is already not natural, and few women can endure the pain of pitocin contractions without medication.

But if you are healthy, low-risk, and open-minded, and if you are serious about wanting to reduce your risk of surgical birth, vacuum extraction, forceps, episiotomy, pitocin, etc., you might be surprised at your ability to birth without an epidural. You’d be surprised at the strength that comes from within, and from above. And at the peace that passeth understanding.

Try it, you might like it! 😉

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